Map of vaccine-preventable diseases shows the scale of problems facing the West

Scanning the newswires for vaccines stories brings up lots of pieces about disease outbreaks. One week the United Kingdom is battling a surge in measles cases, the next polio is causing alarm in Syria. Yet the scale of the problem is hard to grasp from individual events.

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) has attempted to make sense of the stream of news articles by plotting the outbreaks they report on an interactive map. CFR has limited the map to 5 important vaccine-preventable diseases--measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, and polio--plus a catch-all "other" category and plotted all reported outbreaks from 2008 to 2014. A quick glance at the map conveys several immediate, striking points.

North America is covered in big yellow dots that each represent an outbreak of whooping cough. No other region on Earth appears so inundated by the disease. Across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe and Africa, national boundaries are hidden beneath a sea of maroon splotches, each of which shows an outbreak of measles. Most of the countries suffering thousands of cases of whooping cough and measles have vaccines from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Sanofi ($SNY) and others to prevent them.

In North America and Western Europe, antivaccine sentiments are at least partly responsible for the high incidence of disease. While the data may be skewed by higher rates of disease reporting in Western countries--and more complete media coverage of outbreaks--the map nonetheless makes it clear that the U.S., Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand are still heavily burdened by preventable diseases.

- here's the interactive map
- check out the Los Angeles Times' coverage
- and The Verge's article